by Jennifer M. Hall
SFUSA Ark Committee


When the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) project offered seeds last winter, I was faced with decisions. What to grow? Trim the list from 40 dreams to 20 realities. Tomatillos leapt off the list in the top five. Always a fan of green salsa and pork chili verde, I had plans for these fruit known historically as the Zuni Tomatillo and now on the Ark as the New Mexico Native Tomatillo (NMNT).

My boyfriend and I nurtured the starts along under the basement grow lights and put them in the ground at the first opportunity. Spokane, WA has very desert-like conditions with dry air, hot days and cooler nights, so I was hopeful they would do well. They quickly proved they need their “own space.” I staked and tied mine like a tomato plant; Eric did not and they swarmed some other rows.

The early yellow blossoms gave way to countless husk-encased fruits. Mine grew fairly tall and brought a little romance to my back patio, looking like a tree dotted with hundreds of Chinese lanterns. Compared to a more mainstream variety, the NMNT tapers more to the bottom point of the husk.

Harvest time shows the real commitment in a tomatillo grower, particularly this kind. Lots of little fruit (on average, the diameter of a nickel), somewhat unwieldy bush, not very well-known, what will it taste like? Some of Eric’s will make great compost, but overall I was proud of what we picked and honestly glad we didn’t plant more!

So was it worth it? Cooked down into a sauce over wild salmon, pickled with peppers and in salsa, the flavor proved tremendous! In side-by-side tastings with a larger purple tomatillo and the Aunt Molly’s ground cherry that our convivia members also grew, the NMNT was a big winner. Big aroma and almost a melony fruit flavor. Definitely earning its space on the Ark and definitely earning another go in my garden next year.


Good, clean and fair food news sent to your inbox once a month, plus special announcements.
We’ll add your name to the Slow Food USA subscriber list and share with the chapter you select, if you please!